Tear it Down, Throw it Out!!

by Tool Belt Wayne

Today, most of the old is torn out!  This is great fun! Out goes the old tub, toilet and vanity!

First, the toilet.  After shutting off the water supply and emptying the water out of the tank, the tank bolts are removed to separate the tank from the base.  The base bolts that hold the base to the floor are removed along withe the water supply connection. After the toilet is removed, a rag is stuffed into the drain to keep sewer gases from backing up into the house. This process is about a 10 minute job and creates a sense of false security.

Vanity Before

Vanity Before

Tub Before

Tub Before

The old vanity is next.  The water supply is shut off and disconnected. The drain pipe is also disconnected. The sink is removed from the vanity.  The vanity is unscrewed from the wall and ripped away from the wall.  Other than making a few saw cuts around the water pipes, this also goes pretty quickly.

Before the tub/shower is taken out, the sheet rock around it needs to be removed. Since the ceiling will be left in place, I make a cut between the wall  sheet rock and ceiling sheet rock with a utility knife. Using hammers and hands the wall sheet rock is torn out.  NOTHING relieves stress and frustration like smashing holes in walls!! This creates a huge mess of dust and small pieces of wall on the floor.  I am careful to only take out the sheet rock that needs to be replaced and expose wall studs to the point where new sheet rock will be installed.  Thinking ahead will save time and aggravation later in the project.

With the sheet rock out of the way, the tub/shower is next. A search for the water supply shutoffs reveals they don’t exist.  UGH!!  This means the water needs to be shutoff for the whole house for a period of time. I decide once the tub is removed, I will install shutoff valves that can be accessed from an adjoining closet.

With the water turned off, the tub/shower fixtures are removed and the screws holding the tub in place are removed from the wall studs. The unit is too large to be taken out of the bathroom and down the stairway, so it must be cut apart and taken out in pieces.  After a half hour or so of cutting with my saw, the pieces are small enough to be removed.

Vanity Before

Vanity After

The pickup is loaded up and the demolished “stuff”  is hauled off to the transfer station for disposal.

With debate ongoing as to whether or not to replace the ceramic floor tile still unresolved, it is left in place for now.

However, removing the tub reveals some major issues that will need to be solved before the new tub goes into place.  In the meantime, the water to the entire house will be off for an unknown amount of time!!

Next, plumbing problems raise the ante on this project!

The Eve of Destruction

By Tool Belt Wayne

The work is complete in the guest bathroom and the half bath.  Time to tackle the big project – Master Bath Remodel.

This project will do several things:

  • Replace tub/shower one unit with a tub.  The wall surrounding the tub will be done in glass tile, then waterproofed.
  • The vanity, a 90s oak cabinet will be replaced and update with a more modern vanity, sink and faucets.
  • The toilet will be replaced and upgraded
  • The vent/light unit will be replaced with a vent/light/heat unit requiring some new wiring.
  • The tile floor which has a pinkish grout will remain.  The tiles are in good shape, except for a few that will be replaced.  The grout will be removed and new grout will be done.
  • New baseboard will be cut for the entire bath.
  • The room will be repainted.

Next, the old is torn out and thrown out!

Good Riddance Popcorn!!

By Tool Belt Wayne

Popcorn ceilings were popular back in the late 70’s and through the 80’s.  They were part of a decorative craze where ceilings showed texture.  Some designs were made using sponges on thick wet paint while others used gobs of sand to create texture.  In any case, they are pretty ugly and date your house.  They are next to impossible to get rid of without removing the entire ceiling and starting over.

For this project, it made more sense to me not remove the old ceiling but to cover it with new sheet rock and paint! Much easier and it maintains the structural integrity of the ceiling.  The popcorn ceiling was painted on top of 1/2 inch sheet rock. Since I didn’t want to add too much weight to the ceiling, I chose to cover it with 3/8 inch sheet rock.  This would be pretty easy to work.

As a side note, working with sheet rock is not one of my favorite tasks.  I would rather eat sawdust!

When the new ceiling vent.light was installed I lowered it to compensate for the addition of the 3/8 inch board.  This is a comparatively easy installation.  Only the ceiling vent would need to be cut out.  Carefully measuring for the vent cut out, I mark the sheet rock and using a straight edge draw out the vent cut.  I also mark the sheet itself for length and width.

Using a straight edge, the sheet rock is scored with a utility knife.  Once it is scored, you can pick the piece up and set it on edge.  Pushing my knee into the board, on the opposite side of where I scored, snaps the cut open and I only have the paper backing to cut off.  Each cut takes about 2 minutes to mark and cut. The vent cut is a little more difficult.  After scoring the board, I use my keyhole saw to cut along the line I drew.  The cutout simply falls out.

Each piece of sheet rock is screwed through the existing popcorn ceiling into the ceiling joists.  Not each corner is perfect as the ceiling is not square (what a surprise!). To make it fit, you can trim the tight spots with your utility knife.  Gaps and some open areas can be covered with sheet rock tape and covered.

With the sheet rock up, I cover all my open seams with sheet rock tape.  I use the kind that is self sticking.  It’s a little more expensive, but makes the job go faster.

First coat of goop

First coat of goop

Now it is time to mud, goop (whatever you want to call it) the seams and drywall screw holes.  Technically, the product is called joint compound, but I don’t know anyone that calls it that except for the manufacturers. I use the premixed goop.  The goop is slapped heavily onto the seams of the  joints and once covered, I use my special sheet rock tools to remove excess.  It goes pretty fast since the first coat can be rough.  Just watch out for goopballs!

After the goop has dried overnight, I use a sponge to smooth out high spots and put another coat of goop on my seams.  With this coat I am more careful.  After drying for a few hours, I go back and “sand” with my sponge.  I fill in any low spots with more goop and smooth it out.  The next day it gets a final sanding.  I use a sponge and water so there is no sheet rock dust flying around to breathe.  Most of the pros use some some of wet sand paper which is also very effective.

Ceiling finished!

Ceiling finished!

A couple coats of paint and the ceiling and this bathroom are done!

Next – On to the Master bath.


Guest Bathroom Meets an Unexpected Problem

By Tool Belt Wayne

Several different small projects are being tackled in the guest bath:

  • Remove ceiling light in shower
  • Install ceiling vent/light
  • Get rid of popcorn ceiling

The plan for this bath is to cut a hole in the ceiling for the new vent/light and run vent tubing over the ceiling and out to the side of the house into the house soffit. The ceiling light will be removed and the wiring from the wall switch to that light will be reused for the new ceiling vent/light.  Once that is done, 3/8 inch sheet rock will be installed over the existing popcorn ceiling.  That will be taped, mudded and painted.

I start by roughly locating where the new vent/light unit will go in the ceiling.  I am pretty sure the ceiling joists run toward the outside wall of the house, but am not yet sure..  I cut a small hole in the ceiling to see exactly what is up there.  The joists run in the direction I suspect (a small victory that will same lots of time).

I measure and mark with my pencil where the new vent/light will go and using a keyhole saw, I cut out the opening in the ceiling.  I then cut an opening in the ceiling leading out to the side of the house where the vent tube exhaust will run. There is insulation right above the ceiling which makes working in the area take a little longer.

The vent exhaust tube is run from the soffit ( no need to cut new holes) across the ceiling to where the vent is to be installed.  The wood slats that were run across the ceiling when the original sheet rock was installed are used to support the vent tube.

Now, it is time to get my wiring in place.  The wire will come from the ceiling light in the shower that will be removed.  I intend to disconnect the wiring to that fixture and pull it across the ceiling to my new fixture.  Rather than shutting off the power at the fuse box, I tape down the wall switch so the power to the light cannot be turned on.  I remove the ceiling light and the ceiling can that hold it in place.  I disconnect all the wiring and am ready to move the wiring when I run into a problem.

I CAN”T FIND WHERE THE WIRING COMES UP FROM THE WALL SWITCH AND GOES ACROSS THE CEILING TO THE LIGHT!!!!!  #$%$$@!!  Change in plans!  I now decide the next best approach is to run a wire from the old light fixture across the top of the ceiling to the new unit.  Easier said than done!

Remember, I told you there was insulation across the top of the ceiling?  I have to run a wire underneath the insulation and over the ceiling!  I cut a wire of the length I will need and push it through the old shower light opening toward the opening of the new vent/light.  After half a dozen tries, I make it through!!

I connect the old wiring to the new and the shower light opening and secure the wiring in the old junction box that was part of the old light fixture.  At the other end, I connect my wiring to the new fixture.  Up it goes into the opening in the ceiling.  I secure it to the ceiling joist and am sure it is low enough to fit snugly with the new sheetrock that will be installed.  The vent exhaust tube is connected.

The tape is removed from the switch and I test it out!  Perfect!!  The fan runs nicely.

Next – Working with sheet rock!

Installing Ceiling Vents

tbw1 slugBy Tool Belt Wayne

I am going to start the project with replacing an old ceiling vent fan and light with a new one in the half bath on the first floor.  I start by turning off the power to the fixture. After removing the light/vent fan and housing from the ceiling, the power, neutral and ground wires are disconnected.

To install the new unit, the wiring from the switches is threaded through an opening in the vent housing.  About an inch of the casing on each wire from the vent is stripped off with wire strippers. Wires are then attached, black to black, white to white and secured with wire nuts. Ground wires are attached and secured to the ground screw of the housing. Wires are then pushed into the housing being careful not to cross white and black wires. The wire housing area cover is replaced to protect the connections.

The unit is secured in the ceiling opening with screws to hold it in place. The new light fixture is installed and this part of the project is complete.

The next bathroom to tackle is the guest bathroom where there is a light in the shower that needs to be deleted and a new vent/light will be installed in the center of the bath. A vent pipe will also need to be run to the outside of the house and the popcorn ceiling replaced. The switch that controls the light in the shower will be used to control the new vent/light rather than adding a new switches for the unit.  This will avoid tearing out the wall above the existing switch.  I anticipate I can pull the wiring to the shower light and just move it to power the new unit.

Next – Unexpected problem with wiring

Bathroom Upgrades

By Wayne Mates


Dealing with contractors is never an easy thing.  They are independent, sometimes punctual and sometimes you never hear from them.  One of the kids was trying to get quotes from several contractors to upgrade her bathrooms,  She wanted some antiquated ceiling vents replaced in two of her baths and in the master she wanted it totally remodeled.


The master would require a new tub, tiled walls, the old tile floor ripped out and replaced with new floor tile, a new vanity/sink… you get the picture.  In addition, popcorn ceilings need to be replaced.


After listening to her frustration in getting quotes I agreed to do the work as long as she and hub helped.  And, so the next project begins.  I anticipate some unknowns that will most likely create issues and increase costs.


The first thing to do is to assess the work to be done,  It is pretty straightforward. The first bath, a half bath simply needs a ceiling fan replaced.  No big deal.


The second guest bathroom attached to the guest bedroom needs a ceiling vent light installed. The popcorn ceiling needs to be replaced. To do this a cut will need to be made into the present ceiling to run a vent to the outside of the house for the vent and the ceiling will need to be replaced.  It also looks like additional wiring and switches may need to be installed.


The master has a lot of work and will be shut down for several weeks – walls torn out – rewiring – lots of possibilities!


Next  – Installing ceiling vents.